Honda’s high-line Acura brand has confirmed its intentions to launch a hybrid two-seater supercar concept at next month’s Detroit motor show, a model that will go into production as a spiritual successor to the Honda NSX.
The new NSX will opt for a decidedly different approach for a supercar, adopting a specially tuned version of the hybrid ‘Electric Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive’ system that the brand will offer in more mainstream models like the RL saloon and MDX crossover.
The goal is the “optimisation of styling, performance and efficiency,” according to Gary Evert, head of Honda’s U.S. R&D operations. Speaking to Autocar during a secret background viewing of the concept in Las Vegas earlier this month, he added: “We think this can be a real differentiator for the brand.”
The basic Electric Super Handling-All-Wheel-Drive system coming for the RL and MDX models will start off with a front-mounted 310bhp 3.5-litre direct-injection V6 paired with a 40bhp electric motor that will drive the front axle through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission – Honda’s first. The rear axle will, in turn, feature twin 27bhp electric motors, one driving each wheel.
The layout is what has come to be known as a through-the-road hybrid, as there is no direct mechanical link between the front and rear axles. But what’s most notable is that by using separate motors the torque sent to each rear wheel can be varied depending upon factors such as road conditions or, when entering a corner, torque can be increased to the outer wheel to help steer the vehicle through a turn.
Honda officials indicated that in the NSX, the E-SH-AWD driveline will effectively be reversed, with the V6 engine mounted mid-ship and powering the rear wheels and the twin electric motors mounted up front.
The specific horsepower and torque numbers are being finalised but it is likely that the system will deliver significantly more its state of tune in the RL and MDX.
As with the original NSX, expect to see the new supercar make extensive use of aluminum in its constrction. Honda is also likely to turn to some even more exotic materials, where possible, such as carbon fibre-reinforced plastics for the production car.
The concept vehicle heading to Detroit will be lower and wider than the original NSX – which had a height of 1171mm and a width of 1811mm. Length appears to be roughly the same, the 1991 model measuring in at 4404mm, with a 2523mm wheelbase.
The concept NSX’s front bumper will mounted very low, the nose featuring a decidedly subtle version of the Acura brand’s familiar – if controversial – shield grille. But the most distinctive front feature will be the prototype’s five-LED headlamps.
The goal is to give the new model a futuristic look, rather than going with the increasingly-large headlights found on many new models, which the project’s design leader, John Ikeda, suggested have gotten, “out of control”.
The new model carries over only a few subtle hints of the original, highly angular NSX. The overall look is more go-kart like, more planted and solid, with an almost dart-like rise from nose to tail, with modest flying buttresses accenting the back half of the car, helping channel air to the engine and, it appeared, to the rear brakes.
The new Honda NSX is expected to make production by the summer of 2013.